Being a Seattle native, I spend a fair amount of time in coffee shops. I am completely content when I can order a light roast coffee and relax for hours on end with my laptop in a cozy local café. When I thought to do some pre-study abroad research on the coffee shop culture in Rome, I found myself feeling discouraged.
Sure, the coffee in Rome is world-renowned, with good reason! But the sad truth is that sitting by your self with a laptop while slow sipping a coffee is a rarity in Rome. It seems that most Italians prefer their caffeine intake to last only long enough to shoot back an espresso shot.
In coming to Rome, I made it a top priority to scout out some coffee spots and make my own judgments. I am happy to say that I have already had several successful coffee shop experiences, but there are certainly differences between the coffee culture in the States as compared to here in Rome…
- I have yet to see a single disposable coffee cup in the entire city. Makes sense, since coffee to go seems like a ridiculous concept to most Italians.
- Although many cafes in Rome are now connected to WiFi, it is still rare to see anyone working on a laptop. Not completely exiled, but definitely rare.
- A drink can cost significantly more when it is consumed while sitting at a table. For the caffeine addicts who would rather just get the coffee and go, save money by drinking at the standing bar. But for café loungers like me, I see the extra cost as simply paying for a café’s nice ambiance.
- Ordering a cappuccino is blasphemy after breakfast time.
- Instead of paying before picking up the drink from the barista as we do in the States, Italians order their coffee, drink it, and pay right before leaving. They have a serious honor system when it comes to paying for drinks here.
- If you order a “latte”, don’t be surprised when a glass of milk is delivered to your table. If you order a simple “café” or “coffee”, you will get a shot of pure espresso.
- It takes a full year of training to qualify as a barista in Italy… enough said.
- European hot chocolate is a magical thing that should absolutely not be missed. Best when served with a massive dollop of fresh “panna” (whipped cream).
- Rome seems to have a way of turning nearly all people into coffee drinkers. Just yesterday, my roommate had her first legitimate coffee drink ever and mere hours later bluntly stated: “I want more coffee.” I don’t blame her.